One of the best bits of advice I have heard on the matter of how to talk about the issue of Islamicist violence is that “There are ways and ways of telling someone that their tie is crooked.” By which he meant that you can tell them this in a way that causes embarrassment and is received as an act of violence or in a way that upholds the dignity of the crooked-tie-wearer and is received as an act of kindness.
In fact, as I said to the Reverend Doctor who made the comment, a closer analogy would be trying to tell someone that their fly is undone.
For make no mistake, the issue of violence in parts of the Muslim world and in the hearts of some members of the Muslim community is one of the greatest sources of shame and embarrassment for Muslims. Fr Samir Khalil Samir SJ, in an article in Asia News (“Violent Islam, cowardly Europe: from the cartoons to Regensburg”), makes this point well, but I have also experienced it in personal encounters with local Muslims, for whom violent acts by people calling themselves faithful Muslims are the source of a deep sense of shame.
We want to help the Muslim community find a way to meet and defeat the challenge of Islamicist violence, both here and overseas. But how can we raise the topic without increasing the shame and therefore creating resentment? This is a very tricky area of interreligious diplomacy. As tricky as telling someone that their fly is undone.